During the Capital One Bowl yesterday, as the Gamecocks from the University of South Carolina were grinding out their 3rd straight 11 win season and 3 straight bowl victories, an unnamed commentator proclaimed that Jadeveon Clowney's critics simply don't know football. No other statement could be more accurate.
We've all heard the rumblings, either by way of the media, fellow football fans, or office mates. "His endurance is questionable, he gives up on plays, he doesn't seem motivated, he's just ready for the NFL." Well, what would your body language look and feel like if you had to battle 600+ pounds of body weight from double teams of the most highly regarded and powerful offensive linemen in the country on the majority of your snaps? Not to mention being nagged by painful bone spurs throughout the entire season. Students of the game, coaches, former players, anyone that watches and appreciates the great sport at a high level, understands that defensive end is one of the most challenging and exhausting positions on the field. At roughly a towering 6'6 feet, 270 pounds, he's not going to have off the charts endurance, he's not going to have a sticker that says 26.2 on the back of his vehicle, but I can assure you that he will continue to make legendary highlights for as long as he plays the game he loves so dearly. What Jadeveon Clowney accomplished as a Gamecock, with his jaw dropping individual plays the game has never seen before in the most timely moments, is to be cherished.
Clowney has recently been cited with two rather substantial speeding tickets, raising further questions about his character. Let's think back to when we were kids, when we were in college, any dumb decisions, any speeding? And these are the first "character flaws" or trouble with law enforcement that the young man has been involved with in his three quick years at the University of South Carolina. When Clowney concluded his final regular season game in another dominant performance over the Clemson Tigers, there is no telling what kind of financial guarantees and promises agents sent flying his way, so wouldn't anyone be in a "speeding" rush to get there? And let's credit the kid for not prematurely hopping behind the wheel of an Mercedes or Cadillac Escalade. In an interview sometime during his freshman year, I recall Jadeveon Clowney saying he likes to hang out with his family and fish during the little free time he has. And all that know him best talk in a positive manner and mention his humble presence.
As gifted and as disruptive as he was at the collegiate level, Clowney did fall shy of one of his primary individual and team goals, winning an SEC championship. Although only inches away it seemed each of the last three years, it goes to show that football is the ultimate team sport. So the door is still open at The University of South Carolina for that next superstar, the next human highlight reel, to step up to the challenge and bring home the trophy that Gamecock nation desires. Will the next star hail from South Pointe High School, just as the likes of three consecutive NFL draft picks in the Buffalo Bills' Stephon Gilmore, the Dallas Cowboys' Devonte Holloman, and the top five bound NFL pick in Jadeveon Clowney? With the foundation that this trio laid, along with the accomplishments of players such as Alshon Jeffery and the Gamecocks' favorite son in Marcus Lattimore, the future of Carolina football is mighty bright as long as the same wily general stays in command. Steve Spurrier has built it, Jadeveon Clowney took it to another level.